Thursday, December 3, 2015

Gift ideas for the outdoors lover, 2015 edition

Posted By on Thu, Dec 3, 2015 at 9:29 AM

  • Shutterstock

Regardless of your faith or beliefs, this is the gift-giving season, and either you’re looking for a gift for your favorite outdoor enthusiast, or someone is looking for ideas for you. I wrote about gifts last year, but there's always room to add to it.

Starting with electronics, consider getting the hiker on your list a Personal Locator Beacon. When activated by the wearer when they become hopelessly lost or injured and cannot move, it summons Search and Rescue teams and directs them to the hiker. 

If you’re shopping for a cross-country or downhill skier consider an Avalanche Beacon. If you’re shopping for outerwear or equipment for your favorite skier, look for the “RECCO” label. RECCO equipped clothing and gear have a “reflector” permanently attached that allow special radios used by some ski resorts and search and rescue teams to find skiers buried in an avalanche. The RECCO system does not replace avalanche beacons, but instead works in conjunction with them. 

And external battery packs that plug into a cellphone or other devices come in a variety of sizes, weights and price ranges, and always make good stocking-stuffers.

Clothing-wise, “touch” gloves that allow the use of touch screen devices (cell phones, cameras, etc) without exposing fingers to the cold air are invaluable. It’s also important to protect ones ears from the cold, and earmuffs work well. For the person who likes to listen to music while skiing, snowshoeing or hiking, earmuffs with built-in speakers – either wired or Bluetooth – nicely serve two purposes. Disposable chemical foot and hand warmers that you insert into boots or gloves are also a great, inexpensive gift. This time of the year is as good as any to buy your favorite outdoors lover new socks, and you cannot have too many socks.

For the backpacker or camper on your list, a solar battery charger will keep things running when no other power is available. And a solar shower, basically a large bladder that heats water when left in the sun and comes with a hook to hang it and a hose that doubles as a shower head, can keep your favorite camper nice and clean while spending days in the back country.

If all else fails, how about a gift card to their favorite outdoors supply store? Or state and national parks passes?

Happy trails and happy holidays!
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Saturday, November 21, 2015

Winter hiking

Posted By on Sat, Nov 21, 2015 at 7:05 AM

  • Bob Falcone
Colorado Springs is full of hardy, enjoy-the-outdoors-regardless-of-the-weather types of people; we'll all keep hiking, running, cycling, in sun, snow, ice, wind or whatever foul weather gets thrown at us. We're kind of like the mail carriers of outdoor recreation. So, here's a short reminder of how to be properly (and safely) prepared and equipped for winter recreation.

Dress and equip properly

Layering your clothing is the key. Your base layer should be some type of moisture wicking material. Typically, synthetic materials are used in moisture wicking clothing, but wool also works well. DO NOT USE COTTON — you'll sweat, even in the coldest weather, and moisture trapped against your body can lead to hypothermia.

The next layer(s) should be insulating materials such as fleece, wool or synthetic, underneath a breathable, wind/water resistant top layer. This allows moisture to evaporate while keeping warmth-robbing wind away from you. During the course of your outing you can add or remove layers as the weather and your exertion dictates.

Don’t forget your gloves. Most of the time, a pair of thin gloves (think Thinsulate) is really all that’s needed. Make sure they’re water resistant or waterproof. Or, even better, find some gloves that allow you to use touch screens while wearing them to make it easier to use your cellphone or camera without freezing your finger tips. Lightweight gloves also make a great inner layer for when it’s really cold and you need to wear heavier gloves.

Your head needs to be covered as much as anything else. Your ears are particularly susceptible to cold and frostbite, so wear something that covers them — earmuffs, headbands, or simply a hat pulled down over your ears will keep you comfortable.

Don't forget sunscreen. Yes,  you do need it here, even in the winter. That bright sun reflecting off of that bright, white snow can give you a sunburn. 

Your footwear should be layered, too —There are few things as bad as frozen toes! Start with wool socks of the appropriate weight for the temperature, but in very cold weather you can layer with polypropylene sock liners. And, if you don’t have waterproof/breathable/insulated footwear, this may be the time to look into getting some.

Insulated hiking boots, as opposed to “snow” boots, provide extra warmth while keeping the comfort and functionality of good hiking boots. Don’t forget some kind of traction aids for your boots, such as YakTrax, MICROspikes, or ICEtrekkers. They don’t help in fresh snow, but are a necessity on ice. Once the snow is deep enough that you’re “post-holing” — around eight inches-deep or so — then it’s time for snowshoes or cross-country skis.

Speaking of snowshoes, it’s important to get the right size based on the weight of the user. But, when looking for snowshoes, you need to factor your weight when wearing your typical winter clothing and equipment — weight from winter boots and hydration packs can really add-up. When in doubt, or on the borderline between two sizes, pick the larger size. If you’re not sure if snowshoeing is for you, try renting before you buy. And don't forget your hiking poles, a necessity when using snowshoes. Make sure to use the larger snow baskets on the tips of the poles to keep them from sinking too far into the snow.

Let's talk about safety

While every season brings its own weather hazards, winter can be especially dangerous. Shorter daylight hours, storms that can bring rapid temperature drops, winds that can make even moderate weather very dangerous with frigid windchill temperatures, driven snow that can cause whiteouts and disorient hikers all combine to make winter particularly dangerous. However, it’s not hard to keep yourself safe when recreating outdoors in the winter. Many of these things you can do to keep safe apply year-round.

Tell someone where you're going and when you expect to be back. Give that person your car’s information, including license plate number. And don't go alone and don't get in over your head — know when to call it quits and turn around. Search and rescue experts say a group of five works best, since if one person is injured, two can stay with them and two others can go for help.

If you get lost, stay put: If you’ve done everything right, someone will really be looking for you. A stationary target is easier to find than a moving target so shelter in place. Search and rescue experts say that it can take up to 72 hours for you to be rescued, be prepared.

Make sure you have maps for the area you’re hiking in, and a compass, and that you know how to read the map and use it in conjunction with a compass. I carry a GPS receiver and use it on every hike I go on, but like anything else, you need to know how to use it and its limitations. Don’t rely on your cell phone in an emergency, since you may very well be in an area without service. And it's substitute for a map or GPS, since most cell phones have very limited battery life. Speaking of, carry spare batteries for your GPS and cell phone, or carry an external battery that plugs into your devices.  

I highly recommend a personal locator beacon that you can activate when you are rendered immobile or are hopelessly lost. These beacons send a signal to Search and Rescue Satellites giving rescue teams your location. They’re proven to save lives when no other means of communications are available. If you’re in an avalanche prone area, use an avalanche beacon — it’s not the same thing as a personal location beacon, and the two are not interchangeable. Be sure to also carry a flashlight and whistle to use as a signal for help.

Bring food and water. If you can’t bring both, make water your priority — you can survive longer without food than you can without water. If you run out of water, take advantage of the snow but don't eat it. Snow is cold and eating it will lower your core temperature. Instead, let it melt and then drink it.

Pre-existing medical conditions can turn a pleasant outing into a difficult situation in a flash. Diabetics need to take calorie intake vs. exercise into consideration, make adjustments to food intake, etc. Bring any essential medications in case you’re stranded for an extended period of time.

Happy [snowy] Trails!

Bob Falcone is a retired firefighter, photographer, hiker, college instructor and business owner who has lived in Colorado Springs for over 23 years. He is the president of the Friends of Cheyenne Canon and a member of the El Paso County Parks Advisory Board. You can follow him on Twitter (@hikingbob), Facebook (Hiking Bob), or visit his website (Hikingbob.com). E-mail questions, comments, suggestions, etc to Bob: info@hikingbob.com.
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Friday, November 20, 2015

Prescribed burns cancelled

Posted By on Fri, Nov 20, 2015 at 1:32 PM

Fire can be healthy under the right conditions. - BRADLEY FLORA
  • Bradley Flora
  • Fire can be healthy under the right conditions.

The other day, my coworker instant-messaged me in a panic. He had seen smoke rising near Black Forest.

It turned out to be nothing, but his reaction was telling. Those of us who lived through the Waldo Canyon and Black Forest fires tend to get pretty worked up by the sight of smoke.

While some fires are cause for panic, not all are. Under the right conditions, fires are healthy for our forests. That's why experts set fires, known as prescribed burns. The fires thin the forest, burn off excess rubbish, and keep the remaining trees healthy and bug-resistant. While fires always carry risks — and some prescribed burns have raged out of control and caused mass destruction — most do exactly what they set out to do. The trick is to make sure conditions are perfect for controlling the blaze.

So it's reassuring to know that local experts are very picky about choosing the right time to set a prescribed burn. The Pikes Peak Fire Learning Network, a group of prescribed-burn stakeholders, recently cancelled two prescribed burns near Woodland Park because perfect conditions for the fires never materialized this season. The fires will be put off until next year, because when it comes to fire, it's always better safe than sorry.
Fire Learning Network Prescribed Burns Postponed until 2016

The Pikes Peak Fire Learning Network has decided to postpone its prescribed burns until next year. The group had planned to conduct burns in two areas, Catamount and Sourdough, both in the Woodland Park area. However, weather and conditions were not ripe to move forward with the projects this year.

When a controlled burn is implemented, it is conducted under very specific parameters laid out after years of planning. Daily weather conditions play a key role in whether a burn can be accomplished or not. Due to moisture levels, weather forecasts and burn restrictions, the fire managers did not feel there was a window in which to initiate the burns at this time.

The Pikes Peak Fire Learning Network will revisit these projects in 2016 and will continue to keep the community apprised as to when they plan to move forward with these burns.

Please visit www.pikespeakfln.org for more information on these projects and to learn more about the Fire Learning Network.


The Pikes Peak Fire Learning Network is a group of stakeholders working together to foster the safe and appropriate use of fire as a management tool for reducing wildfire risks to communities, restoring forest resilience and enabling people and nature to better adapt to and co-exist with fire. More information can be found at www.pikespeakfln.org

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Saturday, November 14, 2015

Take great winter landscape photos

Posted By on Sat, Nov 14, 2015 at 9:28 AM

Winter is here and with it comes winter hiking, snowshoeing and skiing, and the chance to shoot great winter scenic photos. Social media will blow-up with more snow pictures than you'll be able to keep up with — please, can we have a moratorium on those pictures of snow on patio furniture?

Here are a few tips on how to shoot better snowy landscape photos:

Cold temperatures can greatly reduce battery life in electronics. If shooting with your cellphone or a compact camera, keep it in an inside pocket, close to your body, to keep it warm between pictures and to have enough energy to make phone calls. If shooting with a DSLR, carry one or two extra batteries and keep them as close to your body as possible and switch them around as needed.

Also, rapid temperature changes can cause your lens to fog. Plan your shooting to give your camera a chance to acclimate and stabilize before shooting. “Touch” gloves that let you operate touch screens and keep your fingers warm are a real bonus when shooting with cellphones.

Bright, sunny conditions can mess with your pictures. Cameras of all types are designed to expose everything at "average" brightness. That works for most shots, but you'll end up with dull gray snow and everything else looking dark if you're shooting bright snow scenes. There are two ways to fix this: Compensate by increasing the exposure when shooting, or fix it later with software or an app.

Every DSLR and most compact cameras have an exposure compensation function (check your owners manual for details), and increasing the exposure +1 or +2 will make that dull gray snow look a nice sparkling white. (Be careful not to over-do it, experiment.) Cellphone cameras may not be able to compensate for exposure while taking your pictures. Look for an exposure compensation adjustment, or, if your camera has it, use the HDR (High Dynamic Range) function.

The other option is to shoot the scene and then fix it later. This is my preferred method because it preserves details, but it does take more work and time. For computers, software such as GIMP, PaintShop Pro, or PhotoShop Elements among others will easily fix dark photos. In your cell phone, SnapSeed and Aviary are my favorites (available in the App Store and Google Play).

Here's an example of with a before (top) and after (bottom):

My original photo of North Cheyenne Cañon Creek. - BOB FALCONE
  • Bob Falcone
  • My original photo of North Cheyenne Cañon Creek.

North Cheyenne Cañon Creek after exposure adjustment. - BOB FALCONE
  • Bob Falcone
  • North Cheyenne Cañon Creek after exposure adjustment.

Add color and contrast. A plain white photo, is, well, a plain white photo. To really make your photo interesting, look for something that brings color or contrast to the scene. A lone tree in a snowy field, an old building or people in bright colors are things that make your pictures more visually appealing. Try shooting wide landscapes, including a lot of white, puffy clouds on a blue sky.

Convert to Black and White. Yeah, I know I just said to add color, but with the right software you can convert color photos to black and white. Give it a try.

St. Elmo in color.  It looks "Ok",  but... - BOB FALCONE
  • Bob Falcone
  • St. Elmo in color. It looks "Ok", but...

St. Elmo as a black and white conversion. I think  it looks much better. - BOB FALCONE
  • Bob Falcone
  • St. Elmo as a black and white conversion. I think it looks much better.

Watch your step. Nothing ruins a nice snowscape than unwanted foot prints through the scene. Pay more attention to what's ahead of you and shoot your photos before you walk through your scene. Try walking around the periphery instead of right though the middle of your shot.

Get close. This is good advice for landscape photography in general, and it applies in the winter, too. Enough said.

Up close and personal - BOB FALCONE
  • Bob Falcone
  • Up close and personal

Location, location, location. There is no shortage of places to shoot great winter scenes in the Pikes Peak region. Of course, the Garden of the Gods is particularly scenic, which is why everyone shoots it. But if you want to try something different, go next door to Rock Ledge Ranch, or North Cheyenne Cañon Creek in North Cheyenne Cañon Park — a favorite of mine, along with the old quarry in Red Rock Canyon Open Space. Florissant Fossil Beds National Monument and Mueller State Park have old buildings that look great in snowy scenes, and if you're up for traveling a little, the St. Elmo ghost town, near Buena Vista offers some great photo ops.

Now, go shoot and share your photos.

Happy Trails!

Bob Falcone is a retired firefighter, photographer, hiker, college instructor and business owner who has lived in Colorado Springs for over 23 years. He is the president of the Friends of Cheyenne Canon and a member of the El Paso County Parks Advisory Board. You can follow him on Twitter (@hikingbob), Facebook (Hiking Bob), or visit his website (Hikingbob.com). E-mail questions, comments, suggestions, etc to Bob: info@hikingbob.com.
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Saturday, November 7, 2015

Don't want to pay parking fees at the Incline? Here are your alternatives

Posted By on Sat, Nov 7, 2015 at 7:04 AM

You've no doubt heard that parking on Ruxton Avenue or at the Barr Trail lot in Manitou Springs has just gotten obscenely expensive. This increase in fees, in reaction to complaints from residents along Ruxton Avenue about noise, parking and traffic, is designed to minimize the impact on the neighborhood due to the popularity of the Manitou Incline.

The fees, which have increased to $5 per hour on Ruxton Ave, and to $10 per day at the Barr Trail parking lot – along with limiting use of the lot from 7am to 8pm – will likely severely crimp the style of Incline, Barr Trail and Ute Pass Trail users.

Want to get a sunrise start on Barr Trail next summer? Or, get back after dark? Good luck — you'll find closed gates. You can park in downtown Manitou Springs and walk up to the trailheads, but how long before downtown merchants complain about their customers not having a place to park?

While others tackle those issues, maybe it's time for users to consider alternatives to the Incline. While I have written before about Incline alternatives, many of those stated near the Incline and would face the same parking problems. But not this list. (And yes, there really isn't anything that is an exact replacement for the Incline, so please, hold the cards and letters)

From the bottom of the Challenge Staircase in Castle Rock. - BOB FALCONE
  • Bob Falcone
  • From the bottom of the Challenge Staircase in Castle Rock.
The closest approximation to the Manitou Incline is the “Challenge Staircase” in Castle Rock's Philip S. Miller Park. Constructed about a year ago, at approximately 200 steps, the Staircase is shorter than the Incline, but is still rather steep and will get your heart and breathing rates up.

The evenly spaced steps make for a smoother climb, and it's wide enough that it can accommodate up and down traffic. Trails at the top take you back to the bottom of the Staircase, or on a 7-mile loop around the entire park.

To get there: Take I-25 north to the Plum Creek Parkway exit on the south end of Castle Rock. Go west for less than a mile and turn left into the park, then make the first left following the road to the parking lot at the bottom of the Challenge Staircase.

Closer to Manitou Springs, the Catamount Falls Trail in Green Mountain Falls has moderate steepness and numerous switch-backs. At the top of the hill, you can either turn around and head back down, or keep going through the “Garden of Eden” — and then the Catamount Flume — until you reach the road that goes around the North Slope Reservoirs. For a good view of the north face of Pikes Peak, take the road to the right for a short, steep climb to the Catamount Reservoir.

To get there: Park at Hondo Avenue and Ute Pass Avenue and walk approximately 1/2 mile up Hondo to the service road. Go through the gate on the service road and walk past the waterfall to the trailhead. Approximately six miles round trip if you go all the way to the reservoir.

The Heizer Trail in Cascade is a steep, 4-mile round-trip hike to the summit and back, with stunning views along the way and especially at the top.

Pikes Peak from Heizer Trail. - BOB FALCONE
  • Bob Falcone
  • Pikes Peak from Heizer Trail.

To get there: Take Highway 24 to the Cascade (Pikes Peak Toll Road) exit. Turn left onto Emporia Street and then left on Park Street and another left on Anemone Hill Road. The signed trailhead is at the top of the hill. There is no parking at the trailhead, but you can park on Emporia Street near Highway 24 and walk up to the trailhead. The walk from Emporia Street and Highway 24 adds about another mile (round trip) to the hike.

Finally, with winter is fast approaching, consider another outdoor activity for your outdoor exercise: Snowshoeing. While easier than “post-holing” while hiking in deep snow, snowshoeing is more difficult than plain-old hiking. You'll get more bang out of your workout — even milder slopes than the incline become a pretty good workout when you're snowshoeing.

Wednesday, November 11th is Veterans Day, and entrance fees to National Parks and Monuments are waived. And the 2015 IndyGive! campaign is underway with a number of local outdoors groups are participating, including some that may champion your favorite park or cause. (Full disclosure: I am president of the Friends of Cheyenne Cañon group, one of this year's participants.) Find them in the Great Outdoors section of the guide and make a donation.

Happy trails!

Bob Falcone is a retired firefighter, photographer, hiker, college instructor and business owner who has lived in Colorado Springs for over 23 years. He is the president of the Friends of Cheyenne Canon and a member of the El Paso County Parks Advisory Board. You can follow him on Twitter (@hikingbob), Facebook (Hiking Bob), or visit his website (Hikingbob.com). E-mail questions, comments, suggestions, etc to Bob: info@hikingbob.com.
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Saturday, October 24, 2015

What's with those bent trees?

Posted By on Sat, Oct 24, 2015 at 10:01 AM

Anyone who has hiked through a forest has occasionally seen a deformed or twisted ponderosa pine. Ever wondered about the forces of nature that created these natural sculptures?

As it turns out, forces of nature may have nothing to do with some of these trees. Instead, native people who inhabited the Pikes Peak region dating back hundreds of years may be the cause. John Wesley Anderson, a retired engineer and a researcher working closely with current Ute Tribal leaders, believes the Ute Indians used ropes made from natural fibers to bend ponderosa pines into different positions to create “prayer trees.”

John Anderson pointing out a Ute Indian burial tree.  The section coming up from the ground represents birth, the horizontal section represents a walk through life and the section rising up to the sky represents returning to the heavens (death). - BOB FALCONE
  • Bob Falcone
  • John Anderson pointing out a Ute Indian burial tree. The section coming up from the ground represents birth, the horizontal section represents a walk through life and the section rising up to the sky represents returning to the heavens (death).
According to Anderson, the tress served different functions and carry different meaning depending on the shape they are bent. A tree marking a trail may have been bent to point to a particular destination, or to an important landmark such as Pikes Peak, for example. Others are bent to signify burial and other spiritual sites.

Anderson, a former El Paso County Sheriff, first noticed the odd-shaped trees while hiking in El Paso County’s Fox Run Park about 15 years ago. Later, a newspaper article about culturally modified trees (CMTs) piqued his interest further, and he started research after retiring from a career as an engineer three years ago.

Modified trees exist throughout the Pikes Peak region, but Anderson has identified a high concentration in Fox Run Park. As he pointed out examples of various types of prayer trees in a recent tour through the park, I asked why he thought there were so many there.

“It was probably a congregation area for the Utes, possibly when on their way to other places,” he says, noting that Spruce Mountain in Douglas County also has a high number of CMTs, possibly due to it’s wide, flat terrain.

Anderson's research included a particular challenge: The native Ute language does not have an alphabet, so none of their history was recorded in writing. So to learn more about the trees Anderson made several trips to Ute Indian Reservations in the southwest and invited tribal elders to visit the Black Forest area.

Despite the desire of the Utes to keep some information private, Anderson feels that they were forthcoming in sharing information — the trees they hold sacred would be more likely to be preserved if non-Utes recognized their significance. With information provided by the elders and collected physical evidence, Anderson says he was able to piece together the story behind the modified trees.

A Ute Indian trail marker tree.  The bend in the tree points toward a trail, or another marker tree or a site of significance to Utes. - BOB FALCONE
  • Bob Falcone
  • A Ute Indian trail marker tree. The bend in the tree points toward a trail, or another marker tree or a site of significance to Utes.

According to Anderson, many CMTs in Park and Teller Counties point toward Pikes Peak which held spiritual significance to Utes — others point towards what we now refer to as Ute Pass. And some of the trees point towards constellations while others show relation to seasonal solstices and equinoxes. 

Anderson says that modified tress were not limited to Ute Indians. Evidence shows Cherokee Indians also used the practice to an extent, but only for utilitarian purposes.

A "prophecy tree". According to Anderson, these two trees were purposely joined together, and this was a significant spiritual site for Ute Indians - BOB FALCONE
  • Bob Falcone
  • A "prophecy tree". According to Anderson, these two trees were purposely joined together, and this was a significant spiritual site for Ute Indians

After the Waldo Canyon and Black Forest fires, Anderson sought to become the voice of "education, appreciation and preservation" of the prayer trees. During the restoration work, many prayer trees that had survived the fires were being cut down because people didn’t understand their cultural significance — or thought the twists and turns in the trees were caused by disease.

For more information, Anderson has published a book on the subject “Ute Indian Prayer Trees of the Pikes Peak Region” which is available from the Old Colorado City Historical Society.

The realization that much of what we’ve hiked past on a regular basis is not the work of nature — instead a deliberate, native form of communication — should bring a new level of discovery and observation for hikers.

Happy [educational] Trails!
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Thursday, October 8, 2015

Prescribed burns coming to Woodland Park area

Posted By on Thu, Oct 8, 2015 at 11:05 AM


It is an irony that one of the best ways to prevent forest fires is to start one.

The Pikes Peak Fire Learning Network plans to do exactly that starting in mid-October in two areas near Woodland Park. The prescribed burns, which are closely monitored, are meant to replicate the natural burn process that forests undergo.

Controlled fires help build healthy forests by thinning out vegetation, which makes surviving trees healthier and more fire resistant because they have to compete less for precious resources like water. It also clears out dead vegetation that can act as kindling in dry months, igniting out-of-control blazes. 

Nevertheless, many residents are fearful when they see smoke, especially after the deadly and destructive Waldo Canyon and Black Forest Fires. Read on for more information:

Pikes Peak Prescribed Burns Scheduled to Begin Mid-October

October , 2015 – The Pikes Peak Fire Learning Network will conduct two prescribed fire projects this fall in the Woodland Park area. The Sourdough and North Catamount burns are scheduled to take place in mid to late October, exact dates will depend on weather conditions.

Pikes Peak Fire Learning Network is a collaborative group established to bring local and regional partners together to collectively identify and implement strategies for the safe, effective and appropriate use of fire for forest management.

“Prescribed fire is a highly effective land management tool that can greatly minimize the risk of unnaturally large and damaging wildfires, while improving wildlife habitat and strengthening the health of our landscapes and watersheds,” said Jason Lawhon, Fire Manager for the Colorado Nature Conservancy. “The Fire Learning Network brings together community members and fire and land management professionals to learn from each burn experience.”

The Sourdough prescribed burn will take place over a 14.8 acre area located north of Woodland Park. It will occur on private property off of Sourdough road just south of the Manitou Experimental Forest. Organized primarily through the Coalition for the Upper South Platte, North East Teller Fire and The Nature Conservancy, the goals of the project are to reduce hazardous fire fuels and increase understory grass and plant recovery after a previous forest thinning project.

The burn will take place any time after October 12. The exact date will depend on weather and fuel conditions. There will be one day of burning and crews will remain on scene for multiple days after the burn to monitor the fire until it is completely extinguished.
“Without prescribed fire, we as a society cannot hope to achieve the goals of forest resiliency, community protection, and watershed health,” said Jonathan Bruno, Chief Operation Officer of the Coalition for the Upper South Platte. “These are all critical to protecting people, property, and ecosystems.”

The North Catamount prescribed burn will take place on a 105 acre area located on the
Colorado Springs Utilities’ North Slope Watershed near the North Catamount Reservoir.
Colorado Springs Utilities is the lead Network member on this project with goals of protecting water supply and infrastructure in its watersheds as well as improving forest heath and reducing fuels.

The burn is scheduled to take place any time after October 18 depending on conditions. There will be 1 to 2 days of burning with crews on the scene for multiple days after monitoring until it is completely extinguished.

“Over the past 20 years, multiple fuel reduction projects have been completed on the North Slope using hand crews and other mechanical techniques,” said Eric Howell, Colorado Springs Utilities Forest Program Manager. “Over time, however, wildfire conditions have increased. We can help mitigate risks effectively and safely through the implementation of prescribed fire.”

Pikes Peak Fire Learning Network is actively working with Colorado Air Pollution and Control Division to manage potential smoke impacts from the burns. When a controlled burn is implemented, it is conducted under very specific parameters laid out after years of planning. Daily weather conditions play a key role in whether a burn can be accomplished or not. The project fire managers will be evaluating conditions and forecasted weather to make the best decision on when to initiate these burns.

The Network is working to make sure that community members are kept abreast of information regarding these burns and hope to address any concerns and questions. Once the exact dates of the burns are known, the media and public will be notified. Up to date information will also be disseminated through the Pikes Peak Fire Learning Network twitter account, @Pikespeak_FLN with related hashtags, #SourdoughRX and #CatamountRX.

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Tuesday, September 29, 2015

Building trails with thrifted clothes

Posted By on Tue, Sep 29, 2015 at 8:27 AM

Unfortunately, not everything sold at our yard sale. - J. ADRIAN STANLEY
  • J. Adrian Stanley
  • Unfortunately, not everything sold at our yard sale.
Over the weekend, my friends and I had a yard sale.

We thought we had done a pretty excellent job of it — placing signs at major intersections, letting our social networks know about the sale on Facebook and Twitter, pitching a big tent, and setting up an iPad for credit card sales. Despite our efforts, it was slow going throughout the day, and we eventually turned to our smartphones to post photos of our merchandise in an attempt to drum up sales.

It worked — to an extent. But at the end of the day, there were plenty of leftovers for the the thrift store. It was just a question of which thrift store to go to. Then I remembered that a new thrift store, Shift Thrift, had replied to one of my tweets, saying they'd love the leftovers.

I had recently heard of the store from a press release, and Susan Davies, executive director of the Trails and Open Space Coalition, had also emailed me to tell me about the store. It was a new shop, she wrote, and a new concept.

Shift Thrift is a social enterprise. It gives 30 percent of its proceeds to local charities — and donors get to choose what nonprofit they want to give to. Right now, donors can choose Rocky Mountain Field Institute, Trails and Open Space Coalition, Kids on Bikes, The Home Front Cares, Blue Star Recyclers or Springs Rescue Mission.

Davies let me know that a similar model at Mountain Equipment Recyclers was feeding $300 to $400 per month into TOSC.

"For a small non profit like mine," she wrote, "that’s a big deal!"

Mike Mazzola, Executive Director of Shift Thrift Store, wrote that as far as he knows, this is the first thrift store of its kind in the country. He's hoping to grow the store and expand it regionally, or maybe even nationally.

For now, though, the store is just getting started in a temporary location at 218 W. Colorado Ave. (under the Colorado Avenue bridge). The store hopes to find a permanent downtown location soon. 

After we wrapped up the garage sale, my friends and I decided to reward Shift Thrift for their social media savvy. The friendly staff were excited to see us and more than happy to help us unload our bounty.

And since Davies bothered to email me, we chose to give the nonprofit proceeds to TOSC this time around. 

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Wednesday, September 23, 2015

DATE CHANGE: County wants your input on AFA trail closures

Posted By on Wed, Sep 23, 2015 at 12:14 PM


Here's the rest of the information from the county:

Community Meeting on Use of New Santa Fe Regional Trail Has Been Rescheduled to October 5

Interested Trail Users Encouraged to Attend

El Paso County, CO, September 23, 2015 – The community meeting on the New Santa Fe Regional Trail which was originally scheduled for September 28, 2015 has been moved to October 5, 2015.

El Paso County Parks is hosting the meeting to discuss public use of the New Santa Fe Regional Trail through the Air Force Academy. Interested residents are encouraged to attend the meeting on Monday, October 5, 2015 at 6:00 p.m. at Academy International Elementary School, 8550 Charity Drive, Colorado Springs, CO 80920.

El Paso County has had an easement for the seven mile section of the New Santa Fe Regional Trail through the Air Force Academy since 1989. The trail section has been closed to general public use since May, 2015 due to an increased threat assessment by the US Northern Command.

El Paso County and the Air Force Academy have been in discussions regarding public access to the trail and an update on those talks will be provided. The public is encouraged to attend and provide input on the future use of the trail.

For further information, please contact County Parks at 520-7529.

——- ORIGINAL POST, SEPT. 15, 1:32 P.M. ——-


If you enjoy long bike rides or hikes along the Santa Fe/Pikes Peak Greenway Trail, than you've likely encountered the on-again-off-again trail closures at the Air Force Academy.

Apparently due to security concerns, the AFA closes the trail frequently, ticking off trail users. Well, it looks like the county may want to do something about that. There's a public meeting coming up on September 28 in which El Paso County Parks will take input from citizens on the closures. (We assume screaming and cussing are discouraged.)

The county has had an easement on the AFA section of the trail since 1989, so it's possible that they may be able to keep the trail open. Or at least keep it open more often.

Here are the details:

Community Invited to Meeting on Use of New Santa Fe Trail Through U.S. Air Force Academy

Public May Provide Input on Future Trail Use

El Paso County, CO, September 14, 2015 – El Paso County Parks will host a community meeting to discuss the public use of the New Santa Fe Regional Trail through Air Force Academy property.

The meeting will be Monday, September 28, 2015 at 6 p.m. at the Colorado Parks and Wildlife Offices, 4255 Sinton Rd., Colorado Springs, CO 80907.

El Paso County has had an easement for the seven mile section of the New Santa Fe Regional Trail through the Air Force Academy since 1989. The trail section has been closed for general public use by the Air Force Academy since May, 2015 due to security concerns.

El Paso County and USAFA have been in discussions regarding public access to the trail and an update on those talks will be provided. The public is encouraged to attend and provide input on the future use of the trail.

For further information, please contact County Parks at 520-7529.

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Tuesday, September 22, 2015

Man not attacked by bear

Posted By on Tue, Sep 22, 2015 at 12:20 PM

click image It wasn't me. - JITZE COUPERUS
  • Jitze Couperus
  • It wasn't me.

There's an old saying in journalism that goes something like this: A dog biting a man isn't a story, but a man biting a dog is.

Well, what about a bear not biting a man?  Colorado Parks and Wildlife has concluded that a Grand Junction hunter in his 60s was not attacked by a bear, as he claimed. The man crashed his ATV after he says a bear attacked him. But the CPW says that there is "conclusive evidence that a bear did not attack this individual."

The CPW isn't releasing the hunter's name, and it clarifies that the man may have seen something that startled him. Just not a bear.


GRAND JUNCTION, Colo. - Wildlife officers from the Grand Junction area have completed their investigation of the reported bear attack and mauling on the Grand Mesa Saturday evening, concluding that the injuries to the individual were not caused by a bear.

The man, a hunter in his late 60s, was parked on his ATV on Forest Service Road 105, above Powderhorn Ski Resort, when he says a bear approached and attacked, causing him to drive over a small cliff into large rocks below. The crash resulted in extensive but non-life threatening injuries.

"We investigated this incident thoroughly over the last three days, including the use of specially trained dogs from the USDA's Wildlife Services, examination of the injuries, and forensic crime scene examination and we found conclusive evidence that a bear did not attack this individual," said Colorado Parks and Wildlife Area Wildlife Manager JT Romatzke. "This individual is certain that he saw a bear. We are not discounting that he saw something that caused him to react."

Romatzke adds that some of the initial media reports that a bear had attacked and mauled the individual, based on law enforcement scanner traffic, proved to be premature.

"People get very concerned about wildlife conflicts, and it is not helpful to cause unneeded alarm," said Romatzke. "Just like a typical crime scene, all possible conflicts with wildlife require extensive investigation to come to accurate, factual conclusions. It's important for the public to get the right information, especially when it comes to issues that potentially affect their safety."

The hunter's name is not being released.

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Time is running out to register for zombie run

Posted By on Tue, Sep 22, 2015 at 12:20 PM

The county wants you to be prepared for just about anything. - EL PASO COUNTY
  • El Paso County
  • The county wants you to be prepared for just about anything.

You have until Thursday to register for this Saturday's 3k run from the undead.

El Paso County's Be Prepared… Don’t Be A Zombie 2015 Zombie Run will be hosted at Fox Run Regional Park. The first run starts at 10 a.m. Runners will be chased by zombie hordes who attempt to take their flags. In order to get a new flag, runners have to answer a question about emergency preparedness. The point, obviously, isn't to prepare the public for zombies, but to ready them for the very real disasters like fires and floods. 

Register here. The cost is $10-$30 per runner. Proceeds will go to support community emergency preparedness activities. 
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Monday, September 21, 2015

Torch relay for peace comes to the Springs tomorrow

Posted By on Mon, Sep 21, 2015 at 4:36 PM

click image Run founder Sri Chinmoy holds the torch. - SRI CHINMOY ONENESS-HOME PEACE RUN
  • Sri Chinmoy Oneness-Home Peace Run
  • Run founder Sri Chinmoy holds the torch.
You may see someone running around with a torch tomorrow. No, it's not because of the Olympics. 

The Sri Chinmoy Oneness-Home Peace Run is the world's longest torch relay, and it's been around for 28 years. The relay is intended to promote peace and understanding. Since 1987, the torch has been passed in over 100 countries. 

The relay will include several school presentations. Cindy Stinger, who manages the USOC’s Olympians and Paralympians Association, will also receive the "Torch-Bearer Award" for her work.

Peace Run to Visit Colorado Springs

Colorado Springs, CO – On Tuesday, September 22nd, Colorado Springs welcomes the Sri Chinmoy Oneness-Home Peace Run in partnership with the Al Oerter Foundation as part of a week long run through Colorado. The world's largest and longest torch relay run is in its 28th year and has accumulated enough miles to equal over 13-times around the circumference of the earth.

While in Colorado Springs, Cindy Stinger, who manages the USOC’s Olympians and Paralympians Association will receive the Torch-Bearer Award from the Peace Run team. Former recipients include Olympian Carl Lewis, Archbishop Desmond Tutu and the European Union President.

The Peace Run, now in its third decade, has passed the Torch in over 140 countries giving hundreds of thousands the opportunity to express their own yearnings for a more peaceful world. The Colorado relay begins in Colorado Springs on Sept. 22 and will travel to Denver and Boulder covering approximately 200 miles.

The Al Oerter Foundation fosters character and integrity through sports and the arts. Cathy Oerter, wife of 4-time discus Olympic Gold medalist Al Oerter, will participate with the Peace Run in Colorado. She will speak with students about the values of respect, hard work and fair-play which inspires self-confidence and a passion for excellence in all avenues of life.

During its biennial relay that will start in April 2016 the Peace Run will cover over 10,000 miles in 4 months throughout the US, Mexico and Canada. The European relay goes through 49 countries and covers around 16,000 miles. The Asia-Pacific segment will go through 13 countries.

Along the Colorado route, the runners will make presentations at multiple schools, participate in local events and visit the Olympic Training Center. Heads of state, city officials, Olympians, Nobel Laureates and celebrities have all endorsed the Peace Run that had its beginning in 1987.

The Peace Run will visit the following schools in Colorado Springs:

1. 9am – Queen Palmer Elementary School, Yampa Street
2. 11am – CIVA Charter School, Northpark Drive
3. 2pm – Colorado Springs School, Broadmoor Avenue

Sri Chinmoy was an athlete, philosopher, artist, musician and poet who dedicated his life to advancing the ideals of world friendship and oneness.

For more information on the Peace Run and news from the participating countries please visit: www.peacerun.org

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Saturday, September 19, 2015

It's time to re-open the new Santa Fe Trail

Posted By on Sat, Sep 19, 2015 at 9:29 AM

  • Bob Falcone
In May of this year, the Air Force Academy shut down access to seven miles of the New Santa Fe Trail that traverses the far eastern edge of the school. Citing nothing more than the Pentagon’s standard position of 'national security concerns,' AFA officials closed the trail, keeping El Paso County residents — who paid to have the trail built and maintained — out.

The closure of the trail by the AFA has a wide range of effects. Not only have recreational users been kept from using the trail, but so have cyclists who use the trail to commute from Palmer Lake or Monument to Colorado Springs and back. The popular ADT marathon, that has traditionally used the trail, was forced to create a new route this year because the AFA refused to open the trail for the race. To me, a runner wearing not much more than a t-shirt, shorts and running shoes isn't a real threat to national security.

Add to that the heavy rains and the wettest month on record that caused extensive damage to the trail. While the County Parks Department has been able to access the trail to evaluate the damage, the intransigence of AFA brass has kept repair work from being completed. Presumably, this has allowed the damage to worsen, increasing the cost of repairs estimated to be at least $500,000.

Even though the AFA has claimed that the trail is closed due to security concerns, it continues to allow visitors and their cars onto the grounds, typically with not much more than the most cursory inspection at the gates. And lets not forget the thousands of people, including civilians, granted access to AFA football games. Meanwhile runners, cyclists and hikers aren’t allowed on a trail that, for the most part, is far removed from any facility on the AFA.

The county parks department and Air Force Academy officials have been in discussions regarding opening the trail, and now the public will have a chance to provide some input. The county is inviting locals to a public meeting to discuss the closures and the future of the trail on September 28th. Find more information and a press release from the El Paso County Parks Department here.

It’s time for the AFA leadership to come to their senses and end this ridiculous trail closure.

Bob Falcone is a retired firefighter, photographer, hiker, college instructor and business owner who has lived in Colorado Springs for over 23 years. He is the president of the Friends of Cheyenne Canon and a member of the El Paso County Parks Advisory Board. You can follow him on Twitter (@hikingbob), Facebook (Hiking Bob), or visit his website (Hikingbob.com). E-mail questions, comments, suggestions, etc to Bob: info@hikingbob.com.
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Thursday, September 17, 2015

Skip the hills, try "Pedal the Plains"

Posted By on Thu, Sep 17, 2015 at 11:48 AM

Crowley County offers some beautiful views. - BRIENNE BOORTZ
  • Crowley County offers some beautiful views.

Back in 2011, I wrote about Crowley County, which had the unenviable distinction of being the poorest county in the state. 

Crowley was once as American as apple pie. In fact, it was places like Crowley, which grew the sugar beets that once were used to fill the country's sugar bowls, that made apple pie possible. But like other farming towns, Crowley hasn't fared so well over the decades and by the time I visited, it was slowly dying. 

I can still remember the town's leaders talking about the Pedal the Plains Bicycle Tour, which is now hosted by the Denver Post. Back then, it was a brand new idea, a way to get tourists to check out the flatlands of Colorado. The best part was that it would bring much-needed dollars to this county and the ones around it, all of which struggle to make ends meet.

Pedal the Plains is now in its fourth year. I haven't personally ridden the tour, though I've returned to Crowley to ride my bike down the lonesome roads. The people are incredibly kind, the scenery serene, and the roads long and flat. It's the type of place that makes you feel like you could keep riding forever. 

This year's tour is a bit north of Crowley, but still in Colorado's farming communities. So if you're curious about the plains, or you love riding flatlands, or you want to help out farmers and rural folks, check out the tour this year. Here's the information:

Julesburg, Holyoke and Sterling host 2015 route

​​DENVER — Thursday, Sept. 17, 2015 — The fourth annual Denver Post Pedal The Plains Bicycle Tour will launch from Julesburg, Colorado for a three-day, 155 mile journey through eastern Colorado’s high plains.

From Sept. 18-20, participants will ride to stops in three host communities: Julesburg, Holyoke and Sterling. Off the bike, riders will enjoy live performances by the Flobots and Rapidgrass Quintet.

“After four great years, Pedal The Plains is the best way to experience communities on Colorado’s eastern plains,” said Hickenlooper. “We are always excited to saddle up with friends and family while visiting some incredible towns.”

The ride across Colorado’s eastern plains is a celebration of the state’s growing cycling culture, combining great rides, delicious eats and close friends. Billed as “a ride for the rest of us,” Pedal The Plains is set in the heart of western agriculture, home of the frontier spirit that inspires participants to keep pedaling.

For the first time ever, the Tour’s route will roll across the border into Nebraska. Riders will pedal away the weekend between entertainment and festivities, eat meals made with locally raised beef, pork and lamb as well as local produce and stay in accommodations ranging from tents to bed and breakfasts. Participants can enjoy their time off the bicycle seat as much as on it. From pie-eating contests to Odell Brewing Co. beer gardens to live music and games, Pedal The Plains has it all.

The Denver Post Community Foundation, which has managed the internationally renowned cycling event Ride The Rockies through 30 successful years, is also the organizer for this uniquely Colorado event.

“Our world-class team running Ride The Rockies has successfully built Pedal The Plains into an annual end-of-the-cycling-season bash not to be missed,” said Dean Singleton, Chairman of The Denver Post.

Pedal The Plains will provide numerous economic benefits and opportunities for host communities’ lodging, restaurant, retail businesses, as well as entertainment, community meals, home stays and transportation.

Established four years ago, Pedal The Plains is a celebration of Colorado’s agricultural roots and the state’s frontier heritage on the Eastern Plains. 1,000 cyclists are expected to take part in this year’s ride.

Proceeds from the ride will benefit The Denver Post Community Foundation in support of the Colorado Future Farmers of America Foundation and Colorado 4-H. Pedal The Plains and The Denver Post Community Foundation provide a $6,000 grant to both Colorado 4H and FFA, a $3,000 grant to each of the three host communities; the host communities then choose a local organization of their choice.

Viaero Wireless, the Tour’s presenting sponsor, is joined in supporting the ride by founding partners State of Colorado, Western Dairy Association, Anadarko Petroleum, Noble Energy and Suncor Energy.

“There is no greater day for a homegrown community business than one where we have a chance to give back,” said Frank Dirico, President, Viaero Wireless. “We are excited to help bring Pedal The Plains to the communities of Julesburg, Holyoke and Sterling.”

Pedal The Plains’ ride offerings include the 3-Day Tour, Century Ride and Family Fun Ride. Online registration is closed, but walk-on registration is available for all of the Tour’s ride offerings. Visit www.pedaltheplains.com for more information.

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Five simple things to do to help the Fountain Creek Watershed:

Posted By on Thu, Sep 17, 2015 at 9:57 AM


In this week's SimpliCity, Matthew Schniper dips into how the Creek Week volunteer cleanup effort connects Fountain Creek's communities for the greater good. Fountain Creek Watershed advocates are hoping that a lot of us donate our time to pick trash from the banks during this year's Creek Week — September 26th through October 4th — or maybe adopt a stretch of the waterway to care for throughout the year. But, if for whatever reason you can't, here are five simple ways help year-round:

Find more information about Creek Week and register to volunteer at fountain-crk.org.
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